Work in Sports
Browns start negotiations with Brown, Arrington
Posted: Friday April 14, 2000 11:54 PM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns began contract negotiations Thursday with agents for Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington, one of whom they will take with the first overall pick in this weekend's NFL draft.
A Browns spokesman confirmed that Lal Heneghan, Cleveland's salary-cap guru and chief contract negotiator, was meeting in New York with Marvin Demoff, Brown's representative, and Carl Poston, one of Arrington's agents.
The Browns are reportedly leaning toward selecting Brown, Penn State's dominant defensive end, and if they can work out a deal before Saturday, they will make him the first defensive lineman taken No. 1 overall since Dan Wilkinson went to Cincinnati in 1994.
Pre-draft negotiating is nothing new to the Browns, who used the same tactic last year with quarterbacks Tim Couch and Akili Smith. The team prefers to have some kind of contract agreement reached before the draft in order to eliminate the chance of their top pick holding out in training camp.
However, by sticking with that policy, the Browns are in effect allowing the players to decide where they want to play. If either refuses to negotiate with Cleveland, then they could steer their way to the Washington Redskins who own the second and third picks.
It's no surprise that the Browns are maintaining a closed camp as the clock ticks toward 24 hours until they have to hand commissioner Paul Tagliabue a card holding the name of the top pick.
Both Browns president Carmen Policy and director of football operations Dwight Clark could not be reached for comment Thursday.
But the Browns did announce that Couch will be part of the travel party flying to New York on Saturday morning to welcome the team's top pick.
Couch's addition all but rules out the possibility of the Browns trading their pick.
"The greatest symbol of respect and acceptance that can be extended to the individual we select with the first overall pick is to have his counterpart of 1999 officially welcome him to the Cleveland Browns family," Policy said in a statement. "These two athletes will represent the cornerstones that help form the foundation upon which our organization is building."
It is believed the Browns are set to offer Brown a contract structurally similar to the one they gave Couch last year. Couch's seven-year deal included a hefty bonus and "buy back" years that will require Cleveland to give him a second bonus.
Meanwhile, rumors out of New York continue to swirl.
The Jets obtained two more first-round picks -- they have Nos. 13, 16, 18 and 27 -- when they traded wideout Keyshawn Johnson to Tampa Bay and have been trying to move up into the top 10. They have the ammunition to make an offer the Browns probably couldn't resist.
Arrington, like everyone else, has given up trying to guess what the Browns will do.
"I think they're blowing smoke at everybody, including the players," he said on Fox Sports Net's "Last Word with Jim Rome." "I wish I did know but I'm not sure at this point."